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We live in a world where we are more often than not judged on the basis of our appearance. Healthy and radiant skin is integral to our confidence and self-esteem. Skins issues, whether cosmetic such as pigmentation or dull skin, or medical such as psoriasis, vitiligo, and eczemas, among others, are mentally and emotionally equally distressing. Tackling skin problems early not only helps the skin heal, it also limits the damaging effects on a person’s mind.

Lets take a look at the basics to skin care.

Skin is the largest organ of the body. It is made up of the outer epidermis & inner dermis. The epidermis has a number of layers of cells called keratinocytes & pigment cells called melanocytes. The dermis contains blood vessels, sebaceous or oil glands, sweat glands, nerves; all of which are bound together by elastin & collagen fibres. Factors like pollution, sun rays, stress, irregular food habits, smoking, drinking alcohol, inadequate sleep etc. contribute to skin damage, eczemas, allergies & premature aging of skin.

Basic skin care does not involve use of expensive cosmetics & toiletries. One has to follow a very simple regime for skin care.

Diet: A diet rich in proteins, high fibre, antioxidants and low glycemic index does wonders for the skin. All brightly coloured fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants. One should avoid too much sugar, processed dairy products (except yogurt), alcohol & preserved food . Sugar leads to a process called glycation which is responsible for skin aging. Two litres of water keeps the skin hydrated.

Exercise: About 30 minutes of aerobics, walking, jogging or cycling at least five times a week is essential for a healthy skin. Exercise increases circulation and the flow of nutrients to your skin.

Sleep: Regular sleep optimizes the natural secretion of human growth hormone to promote cell turnover and collagen production. It also prevents formaton of dark circles.

Stress busters: Activities like yoga and meditation help keep stress in check, which in turn reduces the release of stress hormones that worsen skin conditions. Remember Stress causes:

• Dark circles and baggy eyes.

• Dry, dehydrated skin.

• Hair loss.

• Reduces skin immunity, thus making it more susceptible to infections and allergies causing itching, redness, hives, etc.

• Exacerbates existing skin problems such as psoriasis, eczemas, rosacea, and seborrhoeic dermatitis.

• Increases oil production leading to acne.

• Releases free radicals in the skin resulting early wrinkles and fine lines and wrinkles.

Steps to Daily skin care: Cleansing, Toning(optional), Moisturising, Protecting from UV rays

The surface of the skin contains oil, dead cells, sweat, grime, dirt, grease & pollutants. If this is not removed, the skin looks dull & flaky. Cleansing is an important part of skin care. Use warm water to loosen dirt and clogged pores. Use a dime-sized bit of cleanser, then rinse with cool or lukewarm water. At bedtime, make sure to take off your makeup with a proper makeup remover. Avoid bar soaps as they tend to dry out the skin. Choose a creamy cleanser if you have dry skin & a clear cleanser if you have oily skin. Be careful not to cleanse too often as this will alter the pH of the skin and cause dryness.

Toners are meant to remove all remaining traces of oil, makeup and dirt. Only those with oily skin need to use toners. Avoid toners in winter.

For the skin to look healthy & glowing, its uppermost layer called stratum corneum should contain more than 10% of the total water content of the body. Thus, comes the role of a moisturizer. People with dry to normal skin should use a moisturizer twice a day after cleansing. Those with oily skin should use an oil free moisturizer once a day. A moisturizer should be applied on a moist skin surface in order to trap the moisture in the skin.

Many so-called anti-wrinkle, rejuvenating and cell renewal creams are essentially, just good moisturisers. They reduce flakiness by making the stratum corneum cells stick together and make the skin appear smoother by plumping up the stratum corneum cells. The smoother surface also allows more light to be reflected so the skin looks brighter and less dull.

Sun Protection: UVA & UVB rays could be harsh on the skin. Apart from sun tan, one may develop sun allergies, increased pigmentation, freckles, premature aging & even skin cancers. It is important to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of 30 or higher, even on cloudy days, and re apply every two to three hours if you are outdoors. People with oily skin should use a gel based sunscreen to prevent clogging of pores & formation of blackheads or whiteheads.

Special care during the festive season :

1. Moisturise and hydrate your skin.

Dry flaky skin makes the skin look dull and lustreless . The change of season and cold temperatures in the coming months can shrivel up your skin. Use a moisturiser frequently and drink plenty of water to hydrate your skin.

2. Limit your intake of sweets

Try to keep your sweet consumption under control. If you overdose on sugary and fried food, in a few days it’ll start showing on your face : breakouts, dull skin, weight gain, not to mention allergies thanks to the artificial colouring and flavouring that goes into mass-produced sweetmeats.

3. Protect your skin from firecrackers

Most firecrackers have high smoke emissions due to high magnesium and cordite content. These fumes and particulate emissions can settle on your skin and harm it, causing irritant reactions, chemical burns and allergies. Stay at least six to seven feet away from lit fireworks. If you have sensitive skin, it’s a good idea to tie a cotton scarf or dupatta over your face while lighting or watching a fireworks display. Apply a mosituriser containing zinc which acts as a protective skin barrier. Do not forget to wash your face thoroughly with a mild soap and water immediately after the fire cracker session and follow up with a moisturiser.

4. Keep a watch on skin enemies

Gorging on sweets will increase a process called glycation which builds up free radicles in the skin and causes harm to the skin.

Smoking causes an increase in free radicle toxicity leading to premature greying, dark lips, fine lines and early wrinkles.

Late night card parties and alcohol will cause puffy eyes, dark circles.

Sleeping without removing make up or without cleansing will clog pores and cause acne break outs or even rash.

Using unwashed dirty make up brushes and combs can cause infection & rash.

Take care of your skin and celebrate Navratri, Dushera & Diwali with all the zest and zeal.

Stay Happy, Stay Glowing!


Know more about Dr. Jaishree Sharad’s new book ‘Skin Talks’, here:


The Penguin India Blog

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